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Is Coexistence of Human Rights And Animal Rights Possible?

Updated: Jan 18


Law and its varying treatment of humans and animals have always been a bone of vivid contention. Humans have always subjugated animals and so has Law. The non-humans have been exploited, overworked, killed or maimed all for the leisure of humans. The argument that shuts down every animal abuse case into oblivion is that of ‘Speciesism’. It’s a notion based on the Anthropocentric approach that believes humans are the centre of this universe and ecosystem.

But recently, discussions about animals and acknowledging them as legal persons are being undertaken seriously, especially after the 2014 Supreme Court judgment in the case of Animal Welfare Board of India .v. A. Nagaraja. Here, the apex court for the first time observed that certain animal rights like the right to life, protection from torture are comparable to the Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part III of Constitution. This decision has initiated a parallel discussion of whether human rights can co-exist with animal rights on the same plane.

Human Rights

United Nations defines Human Rights as – “rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.” But if you dig deeper, you will realise that Human Rights in themselves, independently, are non-justiciable. This essentially points to the inevitable truth – a human does not guarantee human rights by his mere existence, but by his legal status. This point can be substantiated on the question of whether slaves were not entitled to these basic human rights even though they were human-like their masters.

Animal Rights

Animal rights are the idea that some, or all, non-human animals are entitled to the possession of their own lives, and that their most basic interests – such as the lack of suffering – should be afforded the same consideration as similar interests of human beings. Multiple cultural traditions around the world—such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism—have also supported some forms of animal rights.

Unfortunately, simply being a human does not entitle you to human rights until the law recognises you, and animals also cannot be accorded rights just because of their existence as animals. The law accords them protection, safeguards their interests, provide for their well-being and casts a duty on their owners for their care when they are being used by men. The only real “rights” relished by any animals are those that men extend to them. Domesticated cattle, pets, zoo creatures, work animals, etc are granted protections by humans from the perils of the elements of nature (like survival, disease, predation, starvation, etc.) in exchange for their skill and inclination to be trained. Hence, they can be used to serve our requirements.

The conflict between Animal and Human Rights

Human and animal rights conflict lies primarily in areas of food, necessity and religion. the Law had closed its eyes for a long period to this clash of interests and always subjugated the rights of the voiceless. Even the legislation expressly made for protecting animals from cruelty exempts cruelty when it is done in the context of scientific experimentation, religious practice like a sacrifice.

Animal rights’ activists believe in an absolute declaration of Fundamental rights for animals disregarding their effect on humans. On the other hand, human rights supporters try to trump this argument in their favour by quoting speciesism, that is, human rights and animals rights cannot be equated because of the superiority of humans over animals. However, we miss a very crucial point - The campaigns for animal rights and human rights share the same fundamental aim: a world without oppression and suffering, based on love, kindness and empathy.

When the Law accepts responsibility to protect the weaker and vulnerable humans like children and elderly, why cannot the same sentiment be shared for the more vulnerable thinking, feeling living beings? It is about ending the suffering that results from a supremacist mindset and notion of dominion.


Abusing animals is no more justifiable than abusing people, writes Peter Tatchell. The moral touchstone is awareness of other’s right, not species, and the Anthropocentric ideology of speciesism is analogous to homophobia and racism. It is high time to get replaced with the notion of ecocentrism. Cruelty is barbarism, whether inflicted on humans or other species. We need to recognise and accept our common animal nature. That would make us more acknowledging of animal rights.


Anu Solanki Kamble is an LLM Graduate from Symbiosis Law School, Pune and presently engaged therein as a visiting Faculty.

They can be contacted at anu0solanki@gmail.com.

Edited By: Swathi. Ashok. Nair.


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